BACKGROUND Oral brush biopsies have proved to be a promising new non-invasive methodology in the diagnosis of oral lesions. The extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules gamma2 chain of laminin-5 (L5gamma2), tenascin-c (Tn-C) and the fibronectin isoform containing EDB (EDB-fn) are involved in matrix remodeling during malignant transformation in oral carcinoma. MATERIALS AND METHODS Expression of L5gamma2, Tn-C and EDB-fn was analysed in brush biopsy-obtained cells of benign inflammatory or hyperproliferative lesions and primary oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) using the Roche LightCycler 2.0 System. RESULTS AND CONCLUSION Oral carcinoma are detectable with mRNA resynthesis of the ECM molecules L5gamma2 and Tn-C in oral brush biopsies. EDB-fn mRNA was not detected--the stroma myofibroblasts are apparently a preferential source of EDB-fn and sampling by oral brush biopsy harvests epithelial cells and does not reach the cells which do express EDB-fn. The performance of gene expression analysis in brush biopsies is limited by a high RNase activity in the oral cavity.